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MSN 272 departs Toulouse for the final time. (Photo: Airbus | J.V. Reymondon)

Airbus Sends Off Last Toulouse-Built A380

The Airbus A380 has departed Toulouse, France, for the final time, 15 years after being unveiled to the world as Airbus’ challenge to the Boeing 747.

The aircraft, carrying MSN (Manufacturers Serial Number) 272, will eventually be delivered to Emirates. The airframe itself was first spotted back in September 2020 outside the hangers in southern France after several months of being pieced together from components made across Europe.

Today saw the double-decker take off from Toulouse-Blanc Airport to conduct its first test flight before landing at Hamburg-Finkenweder Airport, Germany, three hours later. The airframe will now undergo paint spraying, cabin fittings and final checks before being handed over to its customer airline at some point in the future. With five yet to be delivered to the middle-east carrier, Emirates will have 122 A380’s in its fleet, the largest operator of the type.

Emirates President, Tim Clark, announced the airline is expecting to take delivery of two A380s this year, with the final three outstanding, being delivered in 2022.

Accelerated Retirement Plans

The decision to cancel the production of the superjumbo was made in 2019 after a relatively dismal number of orders for the type. The final nail in the coffin effectively happened in 2019 when Emirates decided to reduce the number it had ordered by 39 planes, from 162 to 123 aircraft. So far, the airline has retired one airframe, A6-EDB, back in February 2020, the 13th made by Airbus. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Emirates’ utilization of the A380 in the future is yet to be seen, with around 195 new jets on order comprised of A350-100s, Boeing 777-9s and Boeing 787-9s.

The year of 2020 saw the demise of many aircraft types from airline fleet lists, including the relatively junior Airbus A380. Air France took the swift decision to retire the 10 A380s it operated prior to the pandemic, Lufthansa has all but decided to retire the 14 it operated out of Frankfurt (five) and Munich (nine), with a final decision on the fleet to be made in the future.

Qatar, which had 10 of the jets on its fleet list, had planned to phase out the aircraft by 2028. Following the catastrophic impact on the aviation industry caused by the virus, they have brought forward the retirement of five A380s.

Etihad Airways has also effectively ruled out a return to the skies for its A380s, with Chief Executive Tony Douglas telling National,“We have now taken the strategic decision to park the A380s, I am sure it is very likely that we will not see them operating with Etihad again.”

Minor Optimism in Future Planning

On a more positive note, however, the boss of British Airways has reaffirmed its intention to resume A380 operations at some point in the future, once a market recovery sustains. The carrier took the decision to remove all 32 Boeing 747s from its active fleet in 2020, creating a large gap in its long-haul fleet.

Speaking to The Independent, newly promoted Sean Doyle told the British newspaper, “The A380 isn’t flying at the minute but it is in our plans for the future rebuild of the airline. Exactly when we will put the A380 back into service is something that we’re not clear on.”

Portuguese charter airline Hi-Fly began flying one A380 during the pandemic but ultimately returned the aircraft last year at the end of its lease. All Nippon Airways, Asia’s only A380 operator, has three colorful airframes but has shown no intention of removing them from the fleet. The third arrived back in October 2020.

Australian airline Qantas has planned for its A380s not to return to active status until 2023, although some see that as a worst-case scenario. The airline’s 10 A380s currently sit in Victorville, Calif.

Author

  • Jack is a keen aviation enthusiast from the United Kingdom. He has been flying since the age of 13 and today operates in the airline industry

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